No one wants to have a car breakdown in the middle of the road. It is inconvenient, dangerous and expensive to be taken care of. Not knowing what to do in the middle of a breakdown is the worst of all that could happen. Being prepared for the worst at all times is better than being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Safety First! Pullover to the Side
Before you begin to employ your awesome mechanic skills that may or may not be present, you ought to consider your safety first. If your car breaks down in the middle of an empty highway or on a highly crowded road, the first thing you do is to stay calm.
Yes, staying calm will solve half your troubles right away. Now, next, you need to pull over safely to the side of the road. This may not happen easily all the time, say you are facing a hill or on the narrow part of the highway with traffic around you. Try to manoeuvre yourself safely out of traffic.
Stay Inside/Out of Line of Traffic
In a difficult situation where the car is broken down in a driving lane or you are parked just around the bend of a blind corner, you should always stay in your vehicle. If you must absolutely leave your vehicle, do so from the side of the car that is not near moving traffic.
Always stay out of the road. Do not work on the vehicle or change a tire on the side of the road that is exposed to traffic.
Hazard Lights – On!
Switch on your hazard lights so that you can signal that you are in trouble while you are getting out and pulling your car over to the side of the road. Also, try and signal with your hands to other oncoming cars in case you need to warn them of your state.
Use the car’s momentum to reach a safe location. Once away from the line of traffic, engage the parking brakes and park your car like you normally do.
Assess the Environment
If the location you are stuck in is not safe, get inside the vehicle and call for help. You can call for a tow truck or service station that will reach you faster or you can call a friend to help you out. Lock the windows and doors and stay safe!
If you wish to diagnose the problem or change a flat, make sure you are well away from the traffic and then do the repairs or checks.
If you are pushing the car to a different location for any reason, release the parking brake and the foot brake put the transmission in neutral, and steer the car as required while they push. When they need to stop pushing, make sure you brake as soon as possible.
Figuring out the problem
Checks to be carried out:
- Check for battery condition and loose battery connection
- Clean and tighten the battery connection and try again to start
- Check the electrical wiring, tubes, spark plus
- Check the anti-theft system
- Check for key turning in the ignition
- Security light flashes
- Fuel check
It is good if you can make the repairs yourself. But otherwise, it is better to take the car to a professional and not make anything worse. However, you can make some basic assessments about the state of the vehicle.
Loose Battery Cables
Look under the hood to check for a loose battery cable or a blown fuse. Now, check the connections to both battery terminals to see if the terminals are properly connected. If they are not, you can fit them properly provided you have the necessary tools in the boot.
Always apply the negative terminal first. It usually has red plastic or rubber covering the cables and a negative sign on the battery. Fit the terminal head to the right terminal and adjust the bolts to tightly attach. Repeat this for the positive terminal as well. It has black plastic or rubber covering the terminal cable.
If the battery cables check out, go for the fuse box next. The fuses are commonly found in a box near the battery. Open the fuse box to check for blown fuses. To figure out if the fuse is blown, check if the cylindrical fuses have a broken connector within the glass tube and for black soot on the glass. For fuses with plastic casing, the connectors will be broken if they are blown and they too will have a layer of soot on the inside of the plastic cover. Replace any blown fuses with their type and fit them firmly and tightly into their place.
If the engine starts but makes sporadic spitting noises with odd-sounding timing, there might be a problem with the spark plugs. Without a ratchet and a spark-plug wrench, there isn’t anything to be done for this problem, but you can check their attachment to the distributor leads. The spark plug holes will be placed near the engine block and attached to the distributor with wires covered in black rubber.
First, unplug the distributor leads from the spark plug and check to see if the connection area is clean. Clean off any dirt in the space with a towel or paper. Start the engine again and check if it runs now.
Things to Have in Your Car For Emergency Situations
First Aid Kit
For emergency situations, a basic first aid kit including gauze dressings, band-aid, safety pins, crepe-rolled bandages, tweezers, thermometer, cleansing wipes, scissors, antiseptic cream, distilled water, etc. should always be updated and kept in the car.
There is no need to elaborate on why we need a flashlight. Getting stranded after dark or to find something that you dropped under the seat, a flashlight is a handy tool to have in your car at all times.
Even though payments have become digitised now, it is always safer to carry some backup cash with you. To avoid losing it to theft, you may keep it to a minimum amount, but some paper cash will always help you one way or the other.
Car Cell Phone Charger
A troubling car battery is one thing but a drained phone battery is another. None of us wants to be stuck with a broken-down car and an empty phone, do we? Always keep a charger or USB cable to charge your phone for emergencies.
Blankets or Sheets
Blankets or sheets will help you during cold, rain and even from too much heat.
Water filled bottles will not only help your thirst but also cool the radiator in case it is needed.
A basic tool kit with items like a tyre gauge, pliers, oil, brake fluid, duct tape, screwdrivers, a pocket knife, antifreeze, collapsible shovel, ice scraper, and foam tyre sealant is absolutely necessary to be present in your boot. Even if you don’t know how to use them, chances are you could come across someone who can and get you out of sticky situations.
Always carry all your essential documents when driving. Your car insurance policy, driving license, Pollution Under Control certificates, Registration Certificate, etc. to be produced to traffic cops if they require you to produce them.
Red or orange reflective flares placed around your car can warn others of your presence in the middle of a highly crowded road.
Food items with a longer shelf-life like energy bars, dry fruits, cup noodles, etc. can be stored in the car.